Sep 29, 2011

Grown Up Joy School

I lived in a neighborhood that I knew I loved before I moved in. It was just a feeling I had and was ready to make the necessary sacrifices to live there. We already had friends nearby but that's not what drew us. We'd been looking for months and nothing felt just right. It was April 19, 1995 and I had just come home from the hospital with a brand new bundle of joy in my arms when Scott informed me he'd found our home. I reluctantly relinquished the baby and drove two miles north, walked into the entry and burst into tears. I was home. And my milk had come in. I was engorged and in pain.

When my oldest baby was three years old, another mother in the neighborhood approached me and asked if I wanted to join the "Joy School" group. Uh, oookaaay? What's Joy School? It's a cooperative pre-school that mothers take turns teaching. The curriculum is easy and predictably scheduled for 3 year olds. We, the mothers, also had to meet once a month to make plans, tweaks and whatever else. We met for lunch at someone's house and sent the kids outside to play while we connected. 13 years later I think of some of the ladies in this group as my dearest friends.

We all grew up and outgrew our homes. We moved on and away. Although I like many of the women in my neighborhood and we've lived in this house for 11 years, I've never felt as confident and close to the women as I did in my old neighborhood. It was a time when we let our guard down and became a support group. Our goal was singular - love each other and our children. There was no judgment. No rejection. No shunning. We were young, human mothers, women, and sisters who were doing the best we could. We used the relationships we built to gauge our rules, standards and defined our normal. We didn't pretend to be something we were not. At the same time, we were bettering ourselves and each other by having no pretenses, no cliques, and no gossip sessions. Apparently, even our cycles synchronized. Three of us had babies within the same week.

It was never meant to last forever but for that season in my life, they provided exactly what I needed.

I am amazed that I can now live in a neighborhood and still feel alone and isolated. I understood the feeling when I was growing up in a rural, unincorporated town. Geography prevented contact with others beyond church organized activities. But now I live among wonderful, beautiful women who struggle with parenting, homemaking, working, marriage, and a number of other difficulties I can't even imagine and they suffer alone.

So today I was having an internal struggle about my parenting style and reasonable rules. I felt bombarded by outside forces and couldn't seem to gather myself and my family in. I'd mandated that it be a "No Friend" day and took all kinds of crap from my children and the neighbor children. Could I really do that? I didn't know. Could I? Is there a rule book? Would I find the answer on the internet? Should I look?

I ended up in my bedroom, locking the door and praying for strength and help. During the quiet after the prayers, I remembered my Mom Friends. I really wished I had them again. I needed them to help me define myself and my boundaries.  I needed validation and ideas.

As I thought these lonely thoughts, faces of women floated through my head. I do apologize to them (even though none of them but one knows who they are) that they were floating heads without bodies. I called the one that has a son my son plays with. Her first response was, "What did my son do?" I assured her it had nothing to do with any of her children then spilled my guts and asked for ideas. As expected, she's having similar struggles and came up with her ideas. She was a clear answer to my prayers. She gave me a starting point.

In such a busy life, the women I cherish in my neighborhood are ones I want to "do lunch" with but instead I settle for the little contact we have when our children are fighting or doorbell ditching. What I really miss is the scheduled hour and a half where we mothers proactively plan, discuss, and bond. We need each other desperately. But I then realized my renegade friends and I are already doing this kind of support group.

I am sorry for my friends who teach Sunday School on Sundays. I apologize to my husband who teaches gospel doctrine. My women friends and I lead busy lives. During this hour of church, it is not unusual for a group of us to be clustered about supporting one another, sharing our burdens, discussing our struggles, making plans for our families, and talking about going out to lunch someday.

It's our own version of Joy School.


June Freaking Cleaver said...

I know exactly how you feel - I feel that way, too. Alone. Isolated. Sure, there are neighbors here, some of them perfectly nice, but there's no deep connection.

I long for the days when I drank tea in Mary Grace's kitchen, or she, in my dining room, and we talked about husbands and toddlers and life was hard, yet simpler, with her constant support.

M-Cat said...

WHen I was a young mother, our ward was very much like this, as our ward has cahnged, I notice the young mothers still have this, but those of us on the other side of that coin aren't included. I wonder why?

And just today, I was downloading some old VHS tapes to the computer and watched some old Joy School programs. Ahh..those were the days

SupaFlowaPowa said...

I am so doing joy school when my kid and futur kids get older!!! Good?